Asma Paigeer was just 16 years old when the Taliban seized control of Afghanistan on August 15, 2021.

Already a student at the Asian University for Women in Bangladesh, Asma was visiting her family with her classmates when the situation became dire. With the Taliban threatening to shoot them in the head on sight and no promise of help on the horizon, Asma took a chance and used her cell phone to call her sister in the United States.

That call, which seemed so risky then, started an incredible journey for Asma and some of her friends. With her sister tapping into a network of individuals and organizations to bring help, Asma survived the horrors of the Kabul Airport crowds, where the Taliban blocked entry and exit and even held three of Asma's friends hostage.

However, amid this dark chapter in Afghanistan's history, there was a glimmer of hope. Asma is grateful to her sister Osida for her heroic actions and the US military's presence and service to the country. While their presence helped create a world where Asma and many others could experience freedom, democracy, and a life worth living, it also created a future that is more than a moment of safety–it's a future of opportunity.

For Asma, that future of opportunity has taken the form of the University of Virginia Tech, where she studies Fintech and Big Data Analytics with a minor in Computer Science. Asma credits her passion for her studies to her upbringing in an educational-focused environment. She is looking beyond her education to the potential of a post-Taliban Afghanistan that offers a modern financial system as an alternative to the Hawala system, which has been used for corruption, money laundering, human trafficking, and other crimes.

Through her studies and experience living in America, Asma hopes to create a financial system within Afghanistan that will lead to economic prosperity and a better quality of life for all Afghans. This goal is being embraced by her home country as well.

Asma's parents and brother were recently evacuated from Afghanistan and live in Pennsylvania. And yet, Asma's story may still be an inspiring shock to most people. Despite facing so much hardship, Asma has demonstrated incredible courage and resilience in the face of the challenges she has faced in both the past and the present.

Her story offers a glimpse into Afghanistan's future, which could be filled with hope, growth, and progress. Asma's optimism is infectious, and we hope that her story will inspire others worldwide to make a difference within their communities.

Those wishing to get involved can reach out to Afghan women or donate to Asma's education fund, which can help create a more equitable future. Whether it be through providing resources, such as mentorship or education, or promoting equal rights and recognition, Asma's hope for a better Afghanistan is shared worldwide.

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